Reporting from Seoul — In another corporate sputter for beleaguered Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp., the company said it was recalling more than 420,000 vehicles in the U.S. in connection with potential steering problems.
The safety recall to replace the crankshaft pulley on the V-6 engine affects 283,200 Toyota and 137,000 Lexus vehicles in the U.S., the company said. Worldwide it covers 550,000 cars.
There have been no reports of accidents or injuries related to the problems, Toyota said in a news release from its American headquarters in Torrance.
If not corrected, the outer ring of the crankshaft pulley may become misaligned with the inner ring, causing noise or a warning signal to light up. The belt for the power steering pump may become detached from the pulley, making it suddenly more difficult to turn the driving wheel, the release said.
Since September 2009, Toyota has issued recalls covering more than 13 million vehicles in the U.S. With the company facing hundreds of lawsuits, safety experts and industry analysts contend that quality problems could haunt the world's largest automaker for years to come, affecting its reputation and bottom line.
In February, Toyota announced that it would recall 2.17 million vehicles to correct mechanical defects that could cause them to accelerate out of control.
The latest recall includes these Toyota models: the 2004 and 2005 Camry, Highlander, Sienna and Solara; the 2004 Avalon; and the 2006 Highlander HV. The affected Lexus models are the 2004 and 2005 ES 330 and RX 330 and the 2006 RX 400h, the company said.
Starting in January, the company will mail owners a notification to make an appointment with an authorized dealer to have their cars inspected after a sufficient number of replacement parts have been produced, Toyota said.
Meanwhile, consumers who detect any abnormal noises are asked to make an appointment to have the vehicle inspected, the release said.
Toyota urged owners with questions to visit the company's websites at http://www.toyota.com/recall and http://www.lexus.com/recall. They can also contact Toyota in the U.S. at (800) 331-4331 or Lexus at (800) 255-3987.